When a group of U.S. soybean farmers stepped off a plane in China last month, they anticipated a celebration of 30 years of partnership. What they got, however, was a whole lot more. The work of the soy checkoff through the United Soybean Board (USB) and its international marketing arm, the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), has paid dividends in China and the officials wanted to make sure these farmers knew it.
“We’re more than just a supplier of soybeans, but that is part of it,” says Vanessa Kummer, a soybean farmer from Colfax, N.D., and chair of USB. “We’ve helped them improve their food safety and, during this visit, we heard how much they appreciate it.”
The Chinese aquaculture industry is a big part of this partnership. The soy checkoff funds projects that help increase the food safety and growth rates for fish farmers, and the group of U.S. soy farmers heard about the positive success of these programs.
“Fish are a big part of the Chinese diet, so the aquaculture industry is a major player in their economy,” adds Kummer. “The checkoff has helped these fish farmers achieve the right rations and populations, which lessens negative effects.”
Through checkoff-funded demonstrations, USSEC helps show the Chinese aquaculture industry how to lessen disease and pollution in their production systems. Soy-based diets play a role in these improved practices. As the Chinese increase their protein consumption, soy meal use in animal feed continues to increase. Kummer notes the checkoff also works in other animal sectors, including China’s fast-growing poultry sector.
“The people we met with in China recognize the investment U.S. soybean farmers have made in their food security,” says Kummer. “They appreciate our partnerships and look forward to the future of our business relationships together.”
The relationship continues to grow demand for U.S. soy, as well. In 2011, the United States exported a record 895 million bushels of soybeans to China.
The 69 farmer-directors of USB oversee the investments of the soy checkoff to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds to increase the value of U.S. soy meal and oil, to ensure U.S. soybean farmers and their customers have the freedom and infrastructure to operate, and to meet the needs of U.S. soy’s customers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.